Amitai, Reuven. “Ibn Khaldun on Mongol Military Might.” In Kurt Franz and Wolfgang Holzwarth, eds. Nomad Military Power in Iran and Adjacent Areas in the Islamic Period, 191-206. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2015.
Since the first millennium BCE, nomads of the Eurasian steppe have played a key role in world history and the development of adjacent sedentary regions, especially China, India, the Middle East, and Eastern and Central Europe. Although their more settled neighbors often saw them as an ongoing threat and imminent danger—“barbarians,” in fact—their impact on sedentary cultures was far more complex than the raiding, pillaging, and devastation with which they have long been associated in the popular imagination. The nomads were also facilitators and catalysts of social, demographic, economic, and cultural change, and nomadic culture had a significant influence on that of sedentary Eurasian civilizations, especially in cases when the nomads conquered and ruled over them. Not simply passive conveyors of ideas, beliefs, technologies, and physical artifacts, nomads were frequently active contributors to the process of cultural exchange and change. Their active choices and initiatives helped set the cultural and intellectual agenda of the lands they ruled and beyond.
This volume brings together a distinguished group of scholars from different disciplines and cultural specializations to explore how nomads played the role of “agents of cultural change.” The beginning chapters examine this phenomenon in both east and west Asia in ancient and early medieval times, while the bulk of the book is devoted to the far flung Mongol empire of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This comparative approach, encompassing both a lengthy time span and a vast region, enables a clearer understanding of the key role that Eurasian pastoral nomads played in the history of the Old World. It conveys a sense of the complex and engaging cultural dynamic that existed between nomads and their agricultural and urban neighbors, and highlights the non-military impact of nomadic culture on Eurasian history.
Nomads As Agents of Cultural Change illuminates and complicates nomadic roles as active promoters of cultural exchange within a vast and varied region. It makes available important original scholarship on the new turn in the study of the Mongol empire and on relations between the nomadic and sedentary worlds.
Amitai, Reuven. “Hülegü and His Wise Men: Topos or Reality?.” In Judith Pfeiffer, ed. Politics, Patronage and the Transmission of Knowledge in 13 th -15 th Century Tabriz, 15-34. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2014.
Amitai, Reuven. “Rashīd al-Dīn as an Historian of the Mamluks.” In Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett, and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim, eds. Rashid al-Din, Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran, 71-88. London and Turin: The Warburg Institute and Nino Aragno Editore, 2013.
The sixty year struggle (1260-1320) between the Mamluk Sultanate of Syria and Egypt and the Ilkhanate, the Mongol realm in Iran and the surrounding countries, had a profound impact on the region’s ruling elites and the general population, as well as on neighboring countries and beyond. It is possible to speak of a thirteenth century “world war”: on one side were arrayed the Mamluks and the Mongol Golden Horde of southern Russia, at times Genoa and the Byzantine empire, while on the other side we find the Ilkhanate, the Venetians (albeit still trading with the Mamluks), the states of western Europe, the Papacy, the Armenians of both the Caucasus and Cilicia, and Georgia. To these we could add minor, but still important actors: the Bedouin of Syria, the Seljuqs of Rum (Anatolia), the Turcoman of that country, and even more. Far away, the Mongols of Central Asia and the Great Khan in China also had an impact on affairs along the Mediterranean coast and southwest Asia. The present volume is based on four lectures given at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris in February 2007, and first provides an overview of the military struggle between these two regional powers, continues with a detailed discussion of the ideological posturing and sparring between them – both before and after the conversion of the Mongols to Islam in the 1290s, and finally reviews and compares how the Mamluks and Mongols presented themselves to the local, mainly Muslim, populations that they ruled. The book provides an analysis of an important chapter in Middle Eastern, Asian and world history.